Three Things I’m Learning about the Five Stages of Grief


If you are grieving or have ever grieved a loss, then reading this post may be for you an exercise in the obvious.  If you’ve yet to experience serious loss and the grief that comes with it, then perhaps this will be new to you.

Either way, as a reminder or a lesson, I hope what I’m learning in my grief can be helpful to you.

So I offer these simple observations of grief and the stages often used to describe its process.

1.  They aren’t, of course, stages at all.

It is insightful and useful to note that grief is complex and includes within it anger and depression, bargaining and denial.  And it is necessary to understand that acceptance is the resolution at which we aim.  But–and I don’t pretend this any great news flash–the process of grief is a gauntlet that shoves and pulls and batters and bounces us between all of these states of mind and heart.

Denial (“How could this happen?”) can quickly turn to depression (“Will the pain ever end?”) which can easily spawn anger (“Why is life so unjust?”).  But sometimes we’re sent into moments of acceptance, too…of calm and perspective (“I see how life can go on.”).

When we find ourselves there, in acceptance, we must work and pray to remain there as long as possible.  Stretching those moments into hours and days.  Eventually, stringing days of acceptance together and making this place our HQ.  Less and less frequently allowing excursions outside it.

2. Even so, acceptance is underwhelming.

Acceptance is the desired outcome of the grieving process, but it’s still just acceptance, just coming to terms with our loss.

It’s really only filling in the hole so we can begin laying the foundation for the future.  It’s the end of the beginning.

3. Emotion can be an ocean inside us.

Until I experienced the grief of deep loss, I felt in control of my emotions and would have advised others to not let their emotions get out of control, not to be ruled by them.

That’s not an incorrect perspective, but when it comes to grief, it’s incomplete.

I never knew my emotions could be so strong, such a force as to carry me, crash over me.  Never knew so much water could come out of my eyes.  Never knew my thoughts could become so thick with fog.  When the tide of my grief begins to swell I can find myself simply riding it out–truly, sometimes unpredictably, moved.

But life in Jesus means storms can be calmed, waters can even be parted, and faith and peace can rise.  He, too, is there, inside me.

This is some of what I’m learning, what I can share.  My prayer is that in the sharing we can each learn to lean on Him who never leaves us.